Utah Senate debate: Republican Incumbent Mike Lee vs. Independent candidate Evan McMullin

Oct 17, 2022, 7:00 AM | Updated: 7:06 pm

McMullin and Lee are pictured...

Sen. Mike Lee and Evan McMullin will face off for the seat currently held by Lee. Photo credits: (left) Spenser Heaps/ Deseret News, (right) Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News.


SALT LAKE CITY — Republican Sen. Mike Lee and Evan McMullin (Unaffiliated) face off during a debate moderated by KSL NewsRadio’s Doug Wright at Utah Valley University in Orem on Monday evening at 6 p.m.

Lee has been in the Senate since 2011. Lee began his career as a clerk for the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah before clerking for current Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who was then a judge on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

McMullin also ran as an independent candidate  in the 2016 presidential campaign. McMullin was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operations officer from 2001 to 2010. He left the Republican Party in 2016 after Donald Trump became the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, according to Wikipedia. McMullin also has the support of the Utah Democratic Party in the Senate race. 

A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey found 36% of Utahns would vote for Lee and 34% for McMullin if the election were held today. Another 16% don’t know who they would vote for, according to KSL.com.

Lee is asking Utah’s other senator, Mitt Romney, for his endorsement for another term in office:

Sen Mike Lee calls out Mitt Romney for remaining neutral: Help me win re-election

“I don’t get involved in primaries and I don’t endorse. I just stay out of them, particularly between two friends.”

Romney, referring to Lee and McMullin


The top issue for Democrats in 2022 is abortion (35%) and for Republicans, the top issue this year is inflation (40%), as reported by NPR on Sept. 8.

Overall, 30% of survey respondents identified inflation as their top issue, but that’s down 7 points from the last time the question was asked in July. That was followed by abortion at 22%, up 4 points since July, according to NPR.

Poll: Abortion and inflation collide as top issues in midterm elections

Senate candidates on abortion

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. A little more than 60% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases while 37% think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. These views are relatively unchanged in the past few years. That figure hasn’t changed much since before the court’s decision, according to the Pew Research Center.

About six-in-ten Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases

Utah’s trigger law, SB174, would prohibit abortion in most cases.  But it does allow exceptions if the mother’s life is at risk or if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest. An exception is also allowed under Utah’s trigger law if two physicians who practice “maternal-fetal medicine” both determine that the fetus has a severe defect that is uniformly diagnosable and ultimately lethal, according to KSL.com.

In an October 2016 interview with WBUR radio in Boston, McMullin said, “I would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned.”

But in an interview with Mehdi Hasan on MSNBC May 8, he said he would vote against a national abortion ban. 


On Instagram, Lee was quick to pounce:

  • “I guess Evan McMullin opposed Roe one moment and then decided to support it the next. What changed? To quote the Broadway musical ‘Hamilton,’ ‘If you won’t stand for anything, what will you fall for?’” Lee wrote.

On June 24, 2022, Lee wrote in a press release:

  • “The national nightmare of Roe has ended. The Supreme Court of the United States has overturned the wrongly decided Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey . . . I thank God that the people of Utah and the United States are now free to enact protections for life and human dignity.”

Candidates for Senate on inflation

Here are the top five benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act, passed Aug. 7, 2022, by Congress, according to American Progress:

  1. Allows Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.
  2. Caps out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for older adults.
  3. Prevents higher health-care costs.
  4. Cracks down on Big Pharma’s greed.
  5. Cuts carbon pollution dramatically.

During the 12 months ending June 2022, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 9.1% — the largest 12-month increase since November 1981, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lee is against the Inflation Reduction Act’s provision of setting a cap on medications for Medicaid and Medicare patients. Instead the senator is proposing the Protect Drug Innovation Act.

Lee claims the cap on medications will lead to drug shortages, stifle pharmaceutical innovation, harm medication quality and reduce the number of life-saving drugs produced over the next 30 years, according to KUER.

  • “Price controls never work. Instead, they exacerbate the problems they seek to resolve. Mandating fixed prescription drug prices will ultimately result in the shortening of American lives,” Lee said in a statement.


  • “President Biden’s overspending during the pandemic — and reckless spending of prior administrations — has contributed heavily to out-of-control inflation,” McMullin told KUTV in June. “More talk from Lee is worthless if he can’t work with other senators to get anything done.”

Candidates for Senate on immigration

The U.S. foreign-born population reached a record 44.8 million in 2018. Immigrants today account for 13.7% of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.8%) in 1970, according to the Pew Research Center.

Most immigrants (77%) are in the country legally, while almost a quarter are unauthorized, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on census data adjusted for undercount.

McMullin’s views on other immigration-related topics can be found here.

Senate candidates on the Jan. 6 insurrection

On Sept. 21, 2022, the House passed the Electoral Count Act making it more difficult to overturn a certified presidential election and prevent any future assault on the U.S. Capitol as happened on Jan.6, 2021. On that day, a violent mob of then-President Trump supporters clashed with police and smashed their way into the building to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College votes for President-elect Biden.

The Electoral Count Act is an 1887 law that outlines the process Congress follows to certify the Electoral College votes submitted by the States. Although vague, the law is clear the vice president of the United States cannot alter the results of a presidential election as Trump had urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to do after the 2020 presidential election, which Trump lost by more than 7 million votes.

Trump falsely claimed last year that Pence could simply send the results “back to the States.”

The Associated Press explained that the vice president’s role in counting the Electoral College votes is largely ceremonial:

Vice president doesn’t have power to ‘change the outcome’ of elections

A year on, McMullin spoke out Jan. 6, 2022:


Lee exchanged dozens of text messages with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows exploring ways for the Trump administration to overturn the 2020 presidential election, according to Deseret News.

Texts messages reveal Utah Sen. Lee’s efforts to overturn 2020 election

D.C. police officer says Sen. Mike Lee opposed Jan. 6 investigation to cover up his actions

Senate candidates on energy


McMullin says he supports nuclear energy but opposes the government giving tax credits and subsidies to the wind-power industry as reported by On The Issues


Lee lays the blame for the high price for energy at the doorstep of the Biden White House:


Senate candidates on the environment

During floor debate ahead of a vote on the Green New Deal in 2019, Lee told his colleagues that if they really want to address environmental concerns, they will encourage people to have more babies.

  • “Climate change . . . is a challenge of creativity, ingenuity and technological invention,” Lee said. “And problems of human imagination are not solved by more laws, but by more humans. More people mean bigger markets for innovation. More babies mean more forward-looking adults — the sort we need to tackle long-term, large-scale problems.”

This recommendation, to add more people to the planet, doesn’t track with science or reason. A 2017 research article determined that one way an individual could contribute to eliminating greenhouse gases is to have one fewer child, according to The Washington Post.


  • “We consider vital our shared stewardship of America’s resources – natural, environmental and financial. We accept responsibility to conserve for ourselves and future generations these public assets and to protect them from both natural and man-made harms,” according to McMullin’s campaign website.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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Utah Senate debate: Republican Incumbent Mike Lee vs. Independent candidate Evan McMullin